Wow! What a day. This morning started out at an overlook where we could see the Temple Mount in the distance. We discussed Abraham and Isaac, the 1st Temple, the 2nd Temple, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. Much has happened on this piece of land, and much is yet to come.
Several took the opportunity to ride a camel and do a little shopping.
From here we walked down to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. We began our walk with the large Jewish cemetery with many tombs above the remains of those who, according to Jewish custom, are awaiting the arrival of Christ where they will be the first to be raised up to meet Him. Once in the Garden Jim reminded us of Jesus’ triumphal entry which began here. This was where Jesus went to pray after the last Passover meal. And this is where Jesus will physically return at His Second Coming. We had a beautiful time of individual and couple prayer while sitting under the beautiful olive trees, surrounded by the sounds of Jerusalem.
Mount of Olives
Separated from the Eastern Hill (the Temple Mount and the City of David) by the Kidron Valley, the Mt. of Olives has always been an important feature in Jerusalem’s landscape. From the 3rd millennium B.C. until the present, this 2900-foot hill has served as one of the main burial grounds for the city. The two-mile long ridge has three summits each of which has a tower built on it.
From here we walked into the walled city of Jerusalem through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate by some), past the Pool of Bethesda where we saw how difficult it would have been for the lame man to reach the pool, and how blessed this man, who would never have been able to make it into the water, was that Jesus sought him out to heal him. Hmmm. Is there a takeaway here for us?
Next was St. Anne’s Church, a very old church built by the Crusaders in 1100 and named after Mary’s mother (Jesus’ grandmother). This church was built in a way that the acoustics are beautiful. We were able to sing several hymns of praise and listen to our voices rising to Heaven.
Lunch was at the Basti Restaurant, a local falafel, shwarma, and pizza place that opened in 1927. A few had falafel, many found that they have very good pizza.
We were able to walk from the restaurant through the Muslim quarter as we followed the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, and contemplated on what Jesus went through as He who had been mocked and beaten throughout the night, not for anything He had done, but for us and what we have done, was now forced to carry the weight of his cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to Golgotha. This is a journey that every believer should come back to time and time again as we consider what Christ has done for us.
Along the Via Dolorosa we were able to peak into many shops and restaurants and were intrigued by the many smells and sounds that are not “normal” for us.
We stopped at the Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall, where many went in for a time of prayer. It was very busy today. We were taught that practicing Jews only read the Torah (Pentateuch) on Shabbat, Tuesday, and Thursday. Because part of a Bar Mitzvah includes the young man reading part of the Torah and it cannot be read on Saturday, there were several Bar Mitzvahs going on today. It pains us to see people feeling the need to pray at a wall when Christ is calling each to Himself, but it was good to see so many who are practicing what they believe to be true and are searching for God’s answers in their prayers. We pray for The Truth to be shown to them in their search.
The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.
The Davidson Center was next as we watched a video and learned about what life was like for a Jewish man going to the Temple in Jesus’s day. Tito explained to us that practicing Jews believe that they are not pure because they cannot do the sacrifice. They are waiting for the Temple to be rebuilt and for the red heifer to come. At that time they can once again go through the process of cleansing. This video shows that those coming in from the countryside would be bombarded by the same type of smells and sounds that we were bombarded with today. He would have to change his money into the appropriate shekels and then use that money to buy a sacrificial animal. After that he would have to wash in the pool and change into clean clothes because you cannot come before the Lord dirty. Then he could go to the priest and give him his sacrifice. We are so very glad that we do not have to do all of that before we can come before our Lord, but as we look back on our time of prayer this morning, should we not consider the cost of our individual dirt and come before Him in contrition and gratitude at all times?
As we walked from the Davidson Center we rounded an area of the wall which had been destroyed which appeared to have come from the top SW corner of the Temple Mount. This stone has Hebrew writing which says, “to the place of trumpeting to…”. This was most likely the stone which the trumpeter would step out onto in order to announce the beginning and close of Sabbath. The destruction reminded us of what ISIS is doing with many of our historical antiquities today.
On our way to the Hass Promenade to take photos of the Old City Jerusalem we drove along the Valley of Henan, also called Gehenna. God abandoned His chosen people to Babylon when they started following the ways of the world. This was the valley where trash was burned and it was here that parents would bring their children to “pass them through the fire”. Another reminder to us that God expected obedience from His Chosen People and He expects obedience from us today. Something to think about: Following the ways of the people the Jews lived among brought them captivity and death. What does living the ways of the unbelievers of today bring us?
--- Debbie Brown